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The best things to do in Iceland: These activities are always on our itinerary

Coffee shops, lagoons, volcanoes, and more

Iceland
nicos_fotowelt / Pixabay

Iceland, with its breathtaking landscapes and unique natural wonders, has become a must-visit destination for travelers worldwide. In 2023, the island nation welcomed 2.2 million visitors, marking its second-strongest year on record. No longer a hidden gem, Iceland continues to attract more Americans and remains an affordable hotspot for Europeans.

Summer is the best time to visit Iceland if you’re looking for the most comfortable weather and vibrant city life. During this busy season, the long daylight hours allow for endless exploration of the country’s stunning scenery. Reykjavík and other cities come alive with tourists, offering a great vibe all around.

However, if you’re drawn to the allure of ice caves and mesmerizing Northern Lights, winter may be the best time to visit. The colder months provide a unique opportunity to explore the island’s icy beauty and enjoy a stay in a cozy, moonlit cabin. Whether you’re planning a summer escapade or a winter wonderland adventure, these are the best things to do in Iceland.

Hike at Mount Esja

Mount Esja
adriankirby / Pixabay

Hiking Mount Esja is a must-do for visitors to Iceland, offering stunning views and an invigorating outdoor experience just 50 minutes from Reykjavík. Accessible year-round (weather permitting), this popular hiking spot features a well-marked trail system. At 2,999 feet, its summit provides breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. Clear signage indicates the difficulty of various paths, allowing experienced hikers to challenge themselves with a direct route to the top while beginners can enjoy a more leisurely ascent.

Grab a coffee at Kaffitár

iced-coffee-with-cream
Demi DeHerrera / Unsplash

Enjoying a coffee at Kaffitár is a must when in Iceland. This Icelandic coffee roaster, with six cafes in Reykjavík and Kópavogur, is renowned for its specialty coffee, which they import and roast themselves. Kaffitár trades directly with farmers who prioritize environmental and social responsibility. Their commitment to sustainability is evident, and all of their cafes are certified by the Nordic Swan Ecolabel and have received “Kuðungurinn,” the Ministry for the Environment and Natural Resources’ environmental award.

Travel to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
castleguard / Pixabay

Traveling to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is a highlight of any trip to Iceland. Known as one of the country’s natural wonders, this stunning lagoon draws in thousands of visitors every year, with its free-flowing icebergs and the nearby Diamond Beach, where ice chunks glisten like diamonds on the black sand. Travelers flock to Jökulsárlón to enjoy boat tours, capture photos of seals, and marvel at the breathtaking scenery. As Iceland’s deepest lake, with a maximum depth of 814 feet, Jökulsárlón offers an unforgettable experience. The journey from Reykjavík takes around five hours, making it a perfect overnight trip.

Check out The National Gallery of Iceland

art museum
Peggy_Marco / Pixabay

If you should only see one museum when visiting Iceland, make it The National Gallery of Iceland. This national art museum focuses on 19th and 20th-century art, showcasing both Icelandic and international masterpieces. In addition to its impressive permanent collection, the gallery regularly hosts exhibitions by individual artists from Iceland and abroad. 

Eat at Grillmarkaðurinn

Grillmarkaðurinn
Grillmarkaðurinn

Dining at Grillmarkaðurinn (Grill Market) is easily one of the best things to do in Iceland. Founded and run by celebrated Icelandic chef Hrefna Sætran, this award-winning restaurant is a favorite among both locals and tourists. Grillmarkaðurinn collaborates with local farmers and suppliers to offer fresh, seasonal dishes, mainly centered around fish and meat. The menu features Icelandic specialties such as grilled puffin, whale steak, and lamb chops. The steaks are exceptional, benefiting from a minimum 35-day aging process.

Relax at the Blue Lagoon

A boardwalk leading to the water at Blue Lagoon in Iceland.
Roderick Eime

One of the country’s most popular attractions, the Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa on the Reykjanes Peninsula in southwest Iceland and is renowned for its milky blue waters, rich in silica, and comfortably warm temperatures averaging 98-102ºF. In addition to its soothing waters, the Blue Lagoon features the LAVA Restaurant, the Blue Cafe, and the Lagoon Spa, providing visitors with the ultimate relaxation experience. Just a 15-minute drive from the airport, it’s a convenient stop either right after arriving or before departing Iceland.

Admire the tallest church in Iceland

Iceland Church
MarcelDominic / Pixabay

Visiting Hallgrímskirkja, the tallest church in Iceland, is essential when exploring the country. This Evangelical-Lutheran church is not only the largest in the country but also a vibrant center of worship and community. Dominating the Reykjavík skyline, Hallgrímskirkja boasts a 73-meter-high (239-foot) tower offering panoramic views of the city, nearby mountains, and the ocean extending towards Greenland. Built between 1945 and 1986, the church also houses Iceland’s largest organ.

Explore some of the country’s volcanoes 

Iceland Volcano
Herm / Pixabay

Exploring Iceland’s volcanoes is a thrilling adventure for visitors. With roughly 130 volcanoes, the country offers numerous safe and accessible sites to experience these geological wonders. Popular volcanoes include Eyjafjallajökull, known for its 2010 eruption, and Hekla, often called the “Gateway to Hell.” Snæfellsjökull, the glacier-capped volcano that inspired Jules Verne’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” is another favorite.

Amanda Teague
Amanda, an accomplished freelance writer with four years of experience, is a dedicated explorer of both the world and the…
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